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The Power of Buffy

Since it's July, we can't be all serious and informed at every moment, can we? So here's a link to a speech by Joss Whedon, creator of cult feminist icon Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

You may or may not remember how slyly witty that show was, or how funny and revolutionary it was that Joss gave us a blond cheerleader whose daily job it was to save the world from evil. Buffy was a rare female version of the confused-boy-coming-of-age-is-secretly-a-superhero genre (see also: Harry Potter, Spiderman). The series took certain adolescent emotions and made them literal: for instance, high school really was hell, the principal actually was working for the devil, and each adolescent drama really was about preventing the end of the world. Maybe you had to be there, but I was, I confess, a complete addict.

In this speech, Whedon impersonates himself on a press tour, repeatedly being asked the question, "Why do you write such strong women characters?" The answers get better and better. The speech may have been given awhile ago, but if I'd never seen it before, maybe it's new to you too. Enjoy.

 

Bush Erects Another Stonewall Against Accountability

Barely a week after he commuted the 30-month sentence of a former White House insider who was convicted of engaging in felonious attempts to thwart investigations of administration wrongdoing, President Bush has erected another barrier to getting to the truth about whether he and his aides have knowingly violated the law.

In a letter sent Monday to the Michigan Congressman John Conyers, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, and Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who heads the parallel Senate panel, Bush invoked executive privilege to deny requests by the committees for testimony from former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former White House political director Sara Taylor.

Bush's lawyers suggested that Miers and Taylor, both central players in the scandal that has emerged over attempts by the administration to politicize federal investigations and prosecutions, might speak with members of Congress about the firings of US Attorneys who did not go along with the administration's agenda. But the administration says that can only happen in closed-door, off-the-record "interviews" that would not be given under oath.

Conyers and Leahy have repeatedly rejected such proposals. The committee chairs say, correctly, that inquiries into whether the administration used the Justice Department for political purposes--particularly moves to fake up so-called "voter fraud" cases as part of a broader push to make it harder for elderly, low-income and minority citizens to cast ballots--must be open and above board.

That is not the style of this White House.

So uncooperative is Bush that his attorney, White House counsel Fred Fielding, even refused a request from lawmakers that the President explain the basis for invoking executive privilege.

Fielding would only claim that the "assertion of executive privilege here is intended to protect a fundamental interest of the presidency: the necessity that a president receive candid advice from his advisers and that those advisers be able to communicate freely and openly with the president, and each other and with others inside and outside the executive branch."

The truth, of course, is that the "fundamental interest" of the Bush presidency that is at stake is far more consequential than that of defending candid conversation in the White House. As with the decision to commute the sentence of "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff for Vice President Cheney, this imposition of executive privilege would appear to have far more to do with protecting the president from scrutiny than with maintaining the quality of internal White House communications.

Earlier this year, former White House counselor Dan Bartlett unwittingly confirmed that President Bush participated in discussions with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and political czar Karl Rove about firing US Attorneys who weren't sufficiently political in their prosecutions, is hightailing it out of the administration.

That makes the congressional requests for testimony from key players in the US Attorneys scandal something very different than a political "fishing expedition" that might chill dialogue in the White House. This is a matter of national interest that goes to the most critical question about any administration: Is the president playing by the rules of the Republic? Or has he placed himself above the rule of law and the Constitution to which he has sworn a solemn oath?

The determination of this administration to stonewall the US Attorneys inquiry--as it has so many others--sets up a classic confrontation in the courts. Both Leahy and Conyers have said that they are prepared to seek a Contempt of Congress citation, which is the essential first step in asking the federal courts to determine whether Bush has abused his authority to invoke executive privilege to block requests from the legislative branch.

It was on the basis of such a challenge that the Watergate scandal during the presidency of Richard Nixon evolved into a serious discussion of impeachment.

Objecting to the administration's "unacceptable all-or-nothing position," Conyers complains that Bush & Co. "now will not even seek to properly justify their privilege claims."

The senior member of the House committee, a veteran of the House's successful court challenges to Nixon during the Watergate struggles, added, "Contrary what the White House may believe, it is the Congress and the courts that will decide whether an invocation of executive privilege is valid, not the White House unilaterally."

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John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

The GOP's Iraq "Anguish"

The newest GOP buzzword: anguished. That's the phrase most often used these days to describe how Republicans feel about the war in Iraq. Three prominent GOP Senators have rhetorically broken with the Bush Administration in the past two weeks. More are sure to follow.

According to the New York Times, "White House officials fear that the last pillars of political support among Senate Republicans for President Bush's Iraq strategy are collapsing around them." Maine Senator Olympia Snowe says enough is enough. She invokes another Iraq buzzword: benchmarks. The Iraqi government must meet the targets requested by Congress by much-vaunted September. Or else.

Yet another dissident Senator, Indiana's Richard Lugar, says "there's no conceivable way that" the benchmarks will be met. And the White House may be preparing to scrap those goals altogether in search of "alternative evidence of progress."

What's an anguished Republican to do? They'll be votes on Iraq in Congress this week. That's a good place to start.

Operation Understanding DC

In early July Operation Understanding DC sent 31 African American and Jewish high school students from the DC area on a 25 day-long trip to learn about the great struggles--and the sweet victories--of Jews and African Americans who've fought for social justice in our nation‘s history.

"Our mission," said Rachael Feldman, executive director of OUDC, "is to build a future generation of African-American and Jewish young leaders who will work together to eradicate racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination and to promote respect and understanding."

The trip will take them to New York, then through North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. They will visit churches and synagogues and meet with prominent civil rights leaders. The journey is part of a year long program designed to help young people learn to fight injustice and promote tolerance. According to Feldman, in the six months before embarking on the trip, the students in the program "dived intensely into each others religions and cultures" meeting for five hours every Sunday to discuss issues like slavery and the holocaust.

Before they left for the trip, said Feldman, the students "were bouncing off the walls with excitement."

The annual program has been around since 1995, making this latest class the 13th group of kids to make the trip. Adam Yalowitz, completed the program last year and recently told the Washington Post, "Once you begin to think about what's going on in the community, you can't stop thinking about it …you want to act."

This is why OUDC's program, and other summer programs like it, are worth celebrating. By teaching young people about great civil rights victories from the past, and inspiring them to act now, they are ensuring that in the future there will be many more sweet victories.


This post was co-written by Michael Corcoran, a former Nation intern and freelance journalist residing in Boston. His work has appeared in The Nation, the Boston Globe and Campus Progress. he can be reached at www.michaelcorcoran.blogspot.com. Please send us your own ideas for "sweet victories" by emailing to nationvictories@gmail.com. We'll also bring you news about other summer programs and camps designed to inform and inspire the next generation of activists, organizers and thinkers. So please let us know of programs and camps we should be featuring!

An Old Radical Response to a Newly Radical Court

As the Bush-Cheney administration enters its final 18 months, the White House is getting competition from the U.S. Supreme Court for status as greatest threat to the Constitution and the nation for which it is supposed to serve as a blueprint.

In recent weeks, the court headed by Bush-appointee John Roberts has attacked the sort of individual free speech that the Bill or Rights was written to protect while expanding the ability of corporations to warp and dominate the political debate. It has rolled back basic civil rights protections, especially in the area of public education. And it opened the way for the renewal of the sort of business combinations that the anti-trust and anti-monopoly laws of the past century were designed to prevent.

In other words, the court has gotten just about everything wrong -- so wrong that its rational members have begun to express disbelief with regard to the extremism of the new activist majority.

Make no mistake: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are right-wing judicial activists who seek to use the court to legislate from the bench. Rather than interpreting the law, they are taking up cases with an eye toward advancing a political agenda. It is an agenda that is in conflict with established law, the will of the American people and the intentions of the founders. And when the relatively more moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy joins them to form a five-member majority on the court, Roberts and his judicial wrecking crew is free to attack the Constitution without restraint or mercy.

There is no question that the court is a reflection of the Bush-Cheney White House. The president's appointments of Roberts and Alito have tipped the balance far to the right, making the court's most extremist member, Scalia, a frequently definitional player.

But this court will not disband when George Bush and Dick Cheney leave Washington. Like the Iraq quagmire and the nation's battered manufacturing sector, it is the mess that the president and vice president will leave behind. And it will continue to do damage to the Republic, as Roberts and his activist acolytes are determined to continue attacking civil rights, civil liberties and, above all, regulations on the corporate sector to which they owe their highest loyalty.

What can conscientious citizens do? First, they must recognize that the federal courts are, by design and in practice, rigidly anti-democratic institutions. Judges are not elected but appointed. And they are appointed not for terms that might make them accountable but for life. During the Progressive Era, when the anti-trust laws the court is now targeting were developed, visionary leaders such as Wisconsin Senator Robert M. La Follette, warned of the danger posed by powerful but unaccountable federal jurists who made up what progressives referred to as America's "Judicial Oligarchy."

Having battled with jurists who took the side of robber barons over reformers, La Follette told the American Federation of Labor in the early 1920s, "Today the actual ruler of the American people is the Supreme Court of the United States."

The remedy? La Follette and the more radical of his populist and progressive allies believed that federal judges should be elected -- as they already were in many states. Milder reformers, such as Teddy Roosevelt, proposed establishing systems for recalling judges, or for regularly scheduled popular votes on whether appointed federal jurists should be allowed to continue in their positions.

That may sound like a radical idea. And in some senses it is. Shifting from an appointed to an elected federal judiciary would require tinkering with the Constitution. But this would not be the first time that a part of the document was altered to protect its whole – only in the latter half of the 20th century, for instance, were procedures developed for filling vice presidential vacancies.

Certainly, the notion of electing federal judges did not seem so far-fetched in the first years of the last century. Remember that, until 1913, the Senate had been an appointed body -- with its members selected by state legislatures rather than voters. The 17th Amendment to the Constitution turned the Senate from an American version of the English House of Lords into a representative chamber when it established the direct election of senators. That was one of the great democratic advances in the long history of the American experiment. And it ushered in a period of economic, social and political reform, advanced by progressive senators of both major parties and the vibrant state-based third parties of the era.

La Follette, who served as one of the first of the directly-elected senators, did not believe that democracy should stop at the Capitol. When he campaigned for the presidency in 1924, he did so on a platform that promised to seek the direct election of the president, the vice president and the federal judiciary. For the senator who pledged that "the people shall rule," reforming the Supreme Court was essential to establishing democracy. "Either the court must be the final arbiter of what the law is, or else some means must be found to correct its decisions," he told 14,000 supporters gathered at Madison Square Garden.

His Republican opponent, Calvin Coolidge, a man more averse to democracy than any occupant of the Oval Office until the arrival of the current president, condemned La Follette for suggesting that the people ought to decide who would judge the laws of the land. "The time to stop those who would loosen and weaken the fabric of our government is before they begin," grumbled Coolidge.

La Follette did not back down. "Always these decisions of the Court are on the side of the wealthy and powerful and against the poor and weak," he said.

Yes, the senator admitted, there were risks in setting up a system for electing judges. They were, he said, the risks inherent in democracy. But, for the poor and the weak, La Follette argued, these risks were certainly fewer than the risks inherent in oligarchy -- risks that have been well illustrated in recent weeks.

Of course, those who are enthusiastic about the current court's politics will suggest that to propose an elected judiciary now is nothing more than an attempt to rewrite the rules by those who disagree with the federal courts -- different merely in focus and tone from the ranting of conservatives about "activist judges" in eras of a more liberal judiciary. Perhaps this is the case. But a renewal of our acquaintance with La Follette's response to flaws in the body politic, that the cure for what ails democracy is more democracy, seems less ideological or partisan than it does American.

A century after the power to elect the Senate was given to the people, it certainly seems reasonable to entertain a discussion of whether the time has come to remove additional barriers to democracy -- the Electoral College, inconsistent voting systems and rules for participation in the varying states and, yes, the imposed rather than elected nature of our federal courts.

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John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

Signing Off From Live Earth

So the daylong, globe-spanning Live Earth spectacular is in its final moments; the last chords of the almost implausibly star-studded roster of musical acts soon to be played by Sting and the recently reunited Police. It's been an exhausting ten hours, as the thinning ranks of our press cohorts attests. The crowd in the stadium, though, soldiers on, and when the moment came for a beaming Al Gore to introduce homegrown favorites Bon Jovi, the Meadowlands shook louder than it had for any of the series of multi-platinum artists who played the second half of the show.

But the true stars of the day -- no offense to Kanye, Kelly, and Jon -- were the likes of Robert Kennedy, Jr., whose rousing call for Live Earthers to take their eco-consciousness to the voting booth was one of the day's more exciting moments; and, of course, Gore himself, who was greeted with wild cheers every time he took the stage. Kennedy wasted no time before laying into "the oil industry and the coal industry and their indentured servants" on Capitol Hill, and reminded the crowd that while the little things done around the house can help, "the most important thing you can do is get involved in the political process and get rid of these corporate toadies." "This is treason," he said with a growl, "and we need to start to treating them like traitors."

In keeping with the evening's trend -- more substance, less bullet points -- Sting opted to forego his moment at the press tent lectern, handing over his allotted time (announced as the only opportunity to interview him) to his wife, who talked about her participation in an ongoing class-action lawsuit to prevent a massive oil company from spoiling the rainforests of Ecuador, and with them, the habitat of some 30,000 indigenous people. The suit claims the oil to be gained will only amount to twelve-days-wroth of daily-global usage, while the loss of habitat will be immeasurable. To learn more, head to www.chevrontoxico.com

Gore, not suprisingly, has been all over the place. He began the day at a last-minute concert at the National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall in Washington, D.C., before hopping on an Acela Express train to the New York concert. On the way, he batted away inevitable questions about his presidential ambitions, reminding reporters that he's now "involved in a different kind of campaign, to deliver this message to people all over the U.S. and all over the world."

And with all that's gone on over the last twenty-four hours, we have to believe that message has gotten across loud and clear. It's easy to sneer at flashy concerts-for-a-cause and celebrity preaching, but there's no denying the urgency of the message behind even the day's showier moments. As Gore put it recently, "the climate crisis offers us the chance to experience what few generations in history have had the privilege of experiencing: a generational mission; a compelling moral purpose; a shared cause; and the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict of politics and to embrace a genuine moral and spiritual challenge." ‘Nuff said. Thaddeus and I are going to go sneak in to The Police.

Halfway Through Live Earth

Approaching the midway point of the Live Earth concert, with the biggest acts still a few hours away, and fans are continuing to stream into Giants Stadium. Max and I, however, have streamed in and then right back out again, after learning that our badges get us into the press tent in the parking lot and not much else. Our quick tour of the stadium concession area led to observations both expected -- $30 t-shirts, $7.00 beers, beefy security guys who wouldn't let us sneak onto the floor -- and unexpected, like the special veggie hot dogs, hamburgers and kabobs; and the compostable brown paper that much of the food came wrapped in.

Recycling stations are everywhere, many of them staffed by volunteers in light blue shirts emblazoned with a Pepsi logo who are there to help people recycle correctly. We spoke to one, Anne, who works as a scientist and recently relocated to New York from Chicago. She signed up for the gig online because she's always "cared about the planet" and wanted to lend a hand however she could. She wants to see more of these mega-concerts-with-a-purpose in the future, maybe one about balancing the budget and another about putting an end to the war in Iraq. We asked Anne whether she thought other volunteers and concertgoers were as concerned as she about the day's political message. She wasn't sure, but was staying optimistic.

Afterwards, we retreated to the press tent to watch a few of the live acts on a projection screen -- Fall Out Boy, Ludacris, Taking Back Sunday, KT Tunstall, and, most memorable thus far if only for sheer presumptuousness, a version of "Gimme Shelter" featuring Keith Urban and Alicia Keyes. An excited MSN press flack informed the assembled media folks that Live Earth was shaping up to be the "largest online entertainment event in the history of online entertainment events," and by midafternoon the MSNBC.com live feed was warning viewers that "Due to the huge number of fans tuning in, the site is a bit slow right now." Press people huddled around speakers and scribbled notes furiously during a brief stage appearance by Al Gore, during which the Live Earth champion promised to keep fighting for a "sustainable, just, and prosperous world for the twenty-first century."

Confined to the media tent, we spent a majority of our time near the press conference stage sitting through a battery of performer interviews. Most answers have been in keeping with the Live Earth script, and the questions rather innocuous: "So, what have you done to make your household green?" Well, Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall added solar panels to her London flat and plans to insulate the walls with wool if you must know. She also tours in busses powered by bio-diesel, but has yet to solve air travel, aside from endorsing Virgin Air and Richard Branson, who's committed the company's profits to global warming research you may remember. Naturally, making touring more eco-friendly appears to be a common plank with artist here. And so does opting to lead by example rather than browbeating your audience. Interestingly, Senegalese-American hip-hop artist Akon admitted to not really knowing what "green" was before showing up at Live Earth to perform. But now he knows, and when asked about how important an issue addressing climate crisis is in Senegal or Africa, the rapper deflected the question, alluding to the fact that they may have bigger fish to fry -- like poverty, if you're listening, Mr. Geldof.

There have been some sour notes to report. First, not every guest at Giants Stadium was here to support the cause. A gatecrasher, in the form of a small airplane pulling a banner, asked the audience not to believe Al Gore and to demand debate at www.demanddebate.com (word has it from an anonymous Nation stringer that this airplane was spotted flying over Jacob Riis park in the Rockaways hours before the show -- no word if Cheney has a pilot's license). The second sour note involves one of the short videos they play between artists' sets. The particular one in question involved a close-up of a cattle's ass as it prodigiously produced cow pies. I believe it had something to do with going vegan or becoming a vegetarian, but couldn't keep my eyes on the screen long enough to really read the text.

Eco-Narcissicism

Well, Thaddeus and I have arrived at Giants Stadium, the main event is rapidly approaching, and, from the looks of the parking lot, not too many of our fellow concertgoers followed our lead and the suggestion of the concert organizers and took the bus. But that's ok -- Live Earth, its participants and promoters keep reminding us, is not going to solve this whole global warming problem over night. It's just a "launch event," said a publicist in a recent issue of Rolling Stone. A "launch event" reiterated Live Earth creator Kevin Wall to Variety, "not a silver bullet"; better yet, "a tipping point of behavioral change." Despite the out-of-this world promises in the press kit for the concert extravaganza -- "more than 100 music artists"; "2 billion people"; "unprecedented global media architecture" -- you get the sense that Wall and Live Earth guru Al Gore are trying to keep any hopes for immediate climatological salvation, well, down-to-earth. A call to arms -- not a victory cry.

Ok, fair enough. As any right-headed viewer of Gore's Oscar-winning documentary should know by now, there's not much room left for equivocation on global warming -- we're talking systemic change, and fast. You have to start somewhere. As one reporter put it, Live Earth can be a "message to people to change their lifestyles."

And lifestyles are changing. As the New York Times reported last week, sales for Toyota's "built from the ground up" hybrid, the Prius, are up a whopping 93.7% from last year, well outperforming the hybrid versions of popular models offered by other car companies. Why? According to a market research poll, a sizable majority (57%) of Prius owners bought their eco-friendly ride because "it makes a statement about me," almost double the number that offered the same explanation three years ago. By contrast, 36% cited the car's higher fuel economy, and only one in four was attracted by its lower emissions. As the article concluded, "The Prius has become, in a sense, the four-wheel equivalent of those popular rubber ‘issue bracelets'...it shows the world that its owner cares." Another recent Times article, aptly titled "Buying Into the Green Movement", found "that vision of an eco-sensitive life as a series of choices about what to buy appeals to millions of consumers and arguably defines the current environmental movement as equal parts concern for the earth and for making a stylish statement." Even Time Out New York, which normally busies itself with ferreting out hip downtown night spots, implores readers to "be earth-friendly on your terms" on this week's cover.

The cynic in me says this is not ideal. George Black of the Natural Resources Defense Council calls it "eco-narcissism", which might just as well describe the spectacle of scores of pop music celebrities prancing about on stage for twenty-four hours of self-congratulatory hand wringing about the environment. After all, nothing says narcissistic excess like rock-and-roll, and those unparalleled purveyors of the aesthetic of overconsumption are unlikely role models for an environmental movement that must, ultimately, be about a wholesale reconsideration of current patterns of production and consumption, not simply pricey green homes and stylish cotton jeans.

Lest we forget when he shares the stage with Gore et al later today, in late April the proudly "light green" John Mayer reminded readers of his awesomely inane blog, "I drive a Porsche SUV, I still drink lots of bottled water, and I will be flying private charter several times during my summer tour." Sure, it's a good thing that Kanye West is using his public stature to tell millions of fans about the urgency of global warming, but his music is still used to shill SUVs in television commercials.

Just because the messenger is flawed, of course, doesn't mean the message itself is, and maybe it's our responsibility as the consuming public to send a message back to the green celebrities and other eco-narcissists. Reversing the climate crisis will mean doing away with a consumer culture that is fed by and feeds off of our collective celebrity worship. Buying green can't just mean buying different; it has to mean buying less. Let's hope some of today's performers will get serious about changing lifestyles, not just car models.

Music for a Climate in Crisis

Are the Live Earth concerts a real call to action? Vote now and post your comments in the Nation Poll.

Good morning from New York. I am just about to meet up with Max Fraser to head over to New Jersey. The Nation was kind enough to give us access to the Notion this Saturday so that we might post a couple entries live from Giants Stadium, the North American venue for "Live Earth: The Concerts for a Climate in Crisis," the latest global concert-for-a-cause. (Lucky us, with ticket being sold through legitimate vendors for $83 to $348, no small commitment, they were also kind enough to obtain us two press passes, and with those, hopefully access to some of the event's performers for an interview or two.) We should be at the stadium by early afternoon.

If you haven't heard, Live Earth is a 24-hour event on 7/7/07 that will bring together over 100 musical acts to perform a series of nine eco-friendly concerts on seven continents (yes, seven -- apparently Nunatak, the house band at the Rothera Research Station on Antarctica, will slip on their fingerless gloves to play a set outdoors). The shows kicked off in Sydney, Australia last night and have been rolling westward through Tokyo, Shanghai, Hamburg, London, Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro, Washington D.C. (originally cancelled, then added again yesterday morning) and New York all night (China and Australia are on air as I write, watch them here). According to event planners, the music broadcast will entail total media saturation -- TV, radio, web and wireless channels simultaneously -- in hopes of reaching upwards of two billion people, prodding them to take up the good fight against global warming.

Kevin Wall, founder of Save Our Selves (SOS), the establishment behind Live Earth, paired up with eco-crusader-cum-rock-star, ex-V.P. Al Gore, to organize the charitable music event. They promote the all-day concert as the kickoff to a broader, more ambitious multi-year campaign aimed at getting people to affect change locally and globally -- from personal actions one can take to reduce their own carbon footprint, to demanding that their government join an international treaty in two years that promises to cut global warming pollution by 90% in developed countries. Wall's last worldwide production was Live 8, a "global call to action against poverty" in summer 2005.

Ambitious? Certainly. Commendable? Absolutely. Predictable? Maybe. The same group of artists that united to free Tibet, save the family farm, rock the vote, rebuild New Orleans, and, yes, end world poverty will be well represented here. Good at raising money, but Earth-changing results?

As one would imagine, producers are going out of their way to tout the eco-sensitivity of the Live Earth concerts. Biodiesel has been trucked in to power buses running from the press tent to the stadium. Concertgoers asked to carpool or take public transportation. Carbon offsets purchased to atone for flying talent to concert locations. Electricity will be from renewable sources or renewable credits. All this is in keeping with a set of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Event Guidelines established for Live Earth.

Predictably, an event this large is not without its critics despite the noble intentions. Bob Geldof, the man who gave us Live Aid, probably ranks as the most notable and vociferous. Geldof recently told a Dutch newspaper, "But why is [Gore] actually organizing them? To make us aware of the greenhouse effect? Everybody's known about that problem for years. We are all fucking conscious of global warming...I would only organize this if I could get on stage and announce concrete environmental measures from the American presidential candidates, Congress or major corporations. They haven't got those guarantees. So it's just an enormous pop concert." A bit harsh, but not wholly off point.

In the end Wall and Gore have saddled up with a pop music industry that has recently been the target of grumblings for implausibly fostering a less eco-friendly market place despite shifting into the digital-music era. Reuters recently reported music fans continue to purchase the same amount of compact discs, opting now for recordable CDs to store their own playlists over professionally produced CDs. And when they do buy music the old-fashioned way, a majority of discs are still sold in plastic jewel cases and shrink-wrap rather than recycled-paper sleeves. MP3-player continue to sell at an extraordinary clip. These devices contain heavy metals and harmful chemicals, and are often quickly rendered obsolete. This to say nothing of the carbon footprints of major summer tours (and as the Nation reported, lets not put too much faith in carbon offsets just yet). So, real change?

In a July 1st NY Times Op-Ed, Al Gore wrote, "WE - the human species - have arrived at a moment of decision. It is unprecedented and even laughable for us to imagine that we could actually make a conscious choice as a species, but that is nevertheless the challenge before us." Laughable or not, this is exactly what Live Earth aims to do, the unprecedented – save us and the world, while greening the music industry. And it's clear the unprecedented is what needs to happen to solve greenhouse gases. Max and I hope Live Earth can deliver, and will post a couple reports from the NYC concert venue to let you know how it's going.